Don't let the buttons, ties, and hooks throw you off.
washington dc wedding first dance
Credit: Kate Headley

The bride and groom have exchanged vows and rings, and all of the most important wedding photos have been taken, so now it's time to celebrate! But before the toasts begin and the newlyweds take their first turn on the dance floor, there's at least one more very important task that the bride will need help with: bustling her wedding dress.

"There are so many variables," says Julie Sabatino of The Stylish Bride. "Every dress bustles a little differently and every fitter likes to do a different style of bustle-you can do it with pulls, buttons, numbered ties, colored ties. There's nothing that's standard, which is why the bustle is sometimes tricky to navigate." While this information might make being tapped to bustle the gown sound intimidating, Sabatino has a few expert tips to share. With her help, you'll be able to assist with the bustle like a pro.

Join the bride for a wedding dress fitting.

Most wedding dresses aren't designed with a bustle; instead, it's something that's typically added to the gown during the fitting process. Being present at the fittings is the only way you can watch the pros bustle this particular dress, and having their guidance and feedback while you try to do it yourself is invaluable.

Record a how-to video in the salon.

Sabatino's all-star tip for making sure you won't forget how to bustle the dress when the actual moment arrives? Take a video of how it's done properly at the final fitting, when the fitter or stylist is bustling the dress to see how it looks on the bride once all alterations have been made. "Even my girls who do lots and lots of bustles find it helpful," Sabatino says.

Pay attention to how long it takes to bustle the dress.

Bustles vary widely in complexity; they can be as simple as a single button or require a dozen hooks or more. Take note of how long it takes for the wedding dress to be bustled at the final fitting, and then give yourself a buffer of at least ten additional minutes on the wedding day, says Sabatino, as there could be unexpected variables at play. "You might be in a position where there's not a whole lot of light, or the bride's hair and makeup is getting touched up at the same time, which happens a lot," says Sabatino. "It's better to wait until she doesn't have a curling iron in her face!"

Make sure you have helping hands.

If the bride isn't planning to have a stylist or dresser on hand on the wedding day and bustling the dress is your responsibility, make sure to recruit a couple of the bridesmaids to help out as necessary. The extra hands will no doubt come in handy, holding up the layers (and layers) of fabric, double-checking instructions against the how-to video, and even helping to provide a light source from their phone.

Pack an emergency repair kit.

Ribbons can break, ties can loosen, buttons can come undone-there are plenty of things that could make the bustle fall out in some capacity over the course of the evening. Sabatino's go-to for fixing a bustle on the fly? "Nine times out of 10, you're fine with safety pins," she says, noting that she makes sure to have a couple of different sizes on hand, and to look for white safety pins specifically, which will be less noticeable when pinned to a wedding dress if you can't fully hide it.


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